Time to get back to Middle Earth! Now that Easter is over, with all its attendant busy-ness, I'm ready at last for The Return of the King. Which seems very fitting, now that I think of it, since Easter is all about King Jesus returning from the dead. Randomly great timing!
Here we are at Minas Tirith at last. This chapter makes me a little melancholy, first because it should be Boromir returning to aid the city he loves, and second because Minas Tirith is a very sad place. It's half empty, even before the women and children leave, a withering place filled with long grief.
Anyway, we get to learn about about one of my favorite minor characters: Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth! Tolkien says that his folk are "tall men and proud with sea-grey eyes" (p. 734). How sea-grey eyes are different from just grey eyes is beyond me, but maybe they're got a bit of blue to them? My husband and my 2-year-old have blue-grey eyes, so maybe they're descendants of the people of Belfalas :-D Later on in the chapter, Prince Imrahil arrives, and we also learn he's a kinsman of Denethor. In fact, if I recall correctly, he had a claim to the stewardship of Gondor if Denethor and both his sons had fallen.
But getting back to Boromir. Gandalf says that Denethor "loved him greatly: too much perhaps; and the more so because they were unlike" (p. 737). That's such a relief to me! Denethor is this dreadful, lurking spider sort of person and I really can't stand him, so I'm very relieved that we get an explicit report here that Boromir was unlike him. Also, I just this minute realized that meant that, who knows, Gandalf may have met up with Boromir before! He's been to Minas Tirith before, obviously, and so... this is just my fanfic-writer self flaring up and getting all pleased at imagining a brief encounter between the two, possibly so inconsequential Boromir doesn't even remember it later, but that gave Gandalf insight into his character even before he "journeyed far with him and learned much of his mood" (p. 738).
We get some cool insight into Gandalf and his purpose in Middle Earth here too. He tells Denethor that "the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward" (p. 742). I love that idea of Gandalf as the steward and caretaker of all Middle Earth.
Also, I think my favorite moment in this book is when Gandalf laughs suddenly, and Pippin looks up at him and sees that "under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth" (p. 742). I think that might be the moment where Gandalf first became one of my favorites. I love happy people, being overall quite cheerful myself, and that joy lurking under his solemnity is so delightful.
And here at last is the answer to my question about Faramir's ability to "read" Gollum back in the last book! Gandalf says that "the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true" in both Denethor and Faramir, and that Denethor "has long sight. He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men" (p. 742-43). I assume since Faramir has an equal amount of Westernesse-ness with Denethor, he can do the same.
Goodness, this is getting long! And I haven't even mentioned Beregond and his splendid son Bergil. Such a meaty chapter! (And a long one.) I really like Bergil -- he's just about the only youngster in this book, isn't he? And he's such a cheerful kid. I'd like to hang out with him myself.
"Courage will now be your best defence against the storm that is at hand -- that and such hope as I bring" (p. 733).
"If you have walked all these days with closed ears and mind asleep, wake up now!" (p. 737).
"The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn" (p. 755).
Possible Discussion Questions:
When Gandalf and Pippin are still on their way to Minas Tirith, "Shadowfax paused in his stride, slowing to a walk, and then he lifted up his head and neighed. And out of the darkness the answering neigh of other horses came; and presently the thudding of hoofs was heard, and three riders swept up and passed like flying ghosts int he moon and vanished into the West" (p. 732-33). What is that all about? Who are those three riders? What and who am I forgetting here?